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What is Cyber Essentials and how can it help your business

According to research, 95% of Irish SMEs experienced a cyber attack in 2021. Cyber-attacks can pose a serious risk to organisations and can be costly to recover from.

In today’s digital age, sensitive information and important data can be at risk from cybercriminals. With the majority of business data and practices now digital, the impact of a cyber attack can be detrimental to organisations of all sizes.

The average cost of a cyber attack for Irish firms has doubled in the past year, €16,800. Many firms have been hit by ransomware, with 25% paying five times or more to recover data.

So, it pays for your organisation to be cyber secure to prevent the risk of attacks and avoid costly payouts.

What is Cyber Essentials explained

What is Cyber Essentials?

Cyber Essentials is a UK security scheme that is recognised in the EU. It provides a framework for cybersecurity practices and helps organisations protect against the growing threat of cyber attacks.

It contains five technical controls that cover the basics of effective information security for your organisation.

The five Cyber Essential controls are:

Firewalls and internet gateways

The Cyber Essentials Scheme requires your internet connection is protected with a firewall. This acts as a buffer, preventing unauthorised access and determining only those with permission can access your IT networks.

Secure configuration

Ensure security settings for software and devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones, are set to the highest level to minimise vulnerabilities.

User access control

Employees should only have access to the software, settings, data, documents, and services needed to perform their duties. Avoid open access and minimise who has special access privileges to limit damage if a staff account is misused or stolen.

Malware and virus protection

Use anti-virus software and other measures to protect your organisation against malware, including ransomware, to prevent disruption, damage or access to the system.

Patch management

Keep your devices and software up to date with the latest manufacturer security patches to prevent cyber criminals from exploiting vulnerabilities.

A Cyber Essentials certification can help reduce vulnerability and prevent cyber criminals from attacking your organisation.

Cyber essentials controls

Two levels of certification

There are two levels of Cyber Essentials certification.

Cyber Essentials

This is the basic certification which involves a self-assessment. The self-assessment is in the format of a questionnaire and is independently verified. It’s available for organisations of all sizes and provides them with education and cyber security awareness. The Cyber Essentials certification aims to help organisations address the basics of cyber security and prevent common cyber attacks.

Cyber Essentials Plus

Cyber Essentials Plus is a more advanced certification. You will need to complete the basic Cyber Essentials certification first. This certification requires an independent technical audit of your system to ensure that all Cyber Essential controls have been implemented. Auditors will typically take a random sample of your organisation’s computers and run an audit to see if they are secure. The auditors can run the checks remotely.

Benefits of Cyber Essentials

By achieving Cyber Essentials, your business demonstrates its commitment to cyber security. It can help your organisation in the following ways:

Protects and improves information security

Achieving the certification involves implementing the five controls stated as part of the certification. By doing this, your organisation should have increased cyber security awareness, and your systems should be secure and in line with the controls. These practices should help protect your internal networks and systems from attacks, reducing the risk of sensitive data leaks, ransomware payouts, or system disruption.

Attracts new business

Showing your organisation is certified may help attract new business by demonstrating that you prioritise cyber security. It can give a competitive advantage where others may not have the certification.

GDPR compliance

The Cyber Essentials certification can help ensure your organisation stays compliant with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The guidelines under GDPR require organisations to take the necessary precautions to provide a high level of cyber and information security. Organisations must protect data and personal information – this includes protecting them from cyber criminals.

Staying compliant can also help reduce your risk of paying fines for non-compliance or data breaches.

Bid for government contracts

The Cyber Essentials certification enables organisations to bid for government contracts. It may be a specific requirement for their contract, or if not, it will help give you the competitive edge over other organisations bidding. Cyber security is particularly important in government sectors that deal with highly sensitive information and data, which cyber criminals may be looking to target.

Enhanced reputation

A Cyber Essentials certification shows your dedication to customer and business data protection, highlighting the measures you’re taking to minimise cyberattack risks. This protection helps create trust and enhances your reputation as a secure and compliant organisation.

How Cyber Essentials relates to ISO 27001 Information Security Management

ISO 27001 Information Security Management is an international standard for organisations looking to improve the management and security of information. It provides a framework for organisations to establish, implement and maintain their information security system. A comprehensive and in-depth standard with 93 security controls (as of 25th October 2022, with the release of the new ISO 27001 standard, titled ISO/IEC 27001:2022), it focuses on managing all information and documentation, including digital and paper mediums.

How to get the certification

Interested in checking to see if your IT security systems are robust and fit for purpose? Our Cyber Essentials with expert support is a great starting point to enhance data security processes. Contact us for a free, no-obligation quote, and we’ll help you start your journey to becoming certified.

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Holly Fitzpatrick

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